(CNN) — Hurricane Dorian’s forecast track has become a little murkier, with the range of possibilities for landfall now including not just Florida but also the coasts of Georgia and the Carolinas.
Most models now project Dorian — a high-end Category 4 storm — staying just off Florida’s coast Tuesday and Wednesday and skirting the coasts of the Carolinas on Wednesday and Thursday.
Still, there’s a lot of uncertainty in the forecast, with the storm days away from the US coast.
“It’s important to note that much of Florida, and the Southeast coast, remain in the forecast ‘cone of uncertainty,’ meaning landfall is still possible anywhere along the east coast of Florida and points further north,” CNN Meteorologist Dave Hennen said.
Even if the storm’s center doesn’t smack into Florida, “Dorian is expected to be close enough to the coast to bring life-threatening wind, storm surge, and flooding rains starting early next week,” Hennen said.
“The ultimate question is, when does (Dorian) make that sharp turn to the north?” CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar said.
By 11 a.m. ET Saturday, the storm had maximum sustained winds of 150 mph as it neared the northern Bahamas, which Dorian is expected to reach Sunday.
You risk your life if you don’t evacuate, Bahamas PM says
The northern Bahamas will start feeling tropical-storm-force winds Saturday night or early Sunday. Those islands, including Grand Bahama and the Abaco Islands, with a combined population of more than 68,000 people, are expected to feel the storm’s full wrath Sunday afternoon, with sustained winds up to 145 mph.
“Do not be foolish and try to brave out this hurricane,” Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said at a news conference, according to CNN affiliate WPLG. “The price you may pay for not evacuating is your life.”
Life-threatening storm surges of 10 to 15 feet could crash Sunday into parts of the northwestern Bahamas, the hurricane center said.
The northwestern Bahamas also could get 10 to 25 inches of rain, the hurricane center said.
Florida expected to get walloped, with or without landfall
Even if Dorian’s center does not make landfall in Florida, it still could hug the coastline Tuesday and Wednesday, ripping parts of the state with destructive winds and storm surges, and heavy rain.
Such a scenario would be similar to 2016’s Hurricane Matthew, a storm that did nearly $5 billion worth of damage in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. Matthew approached Florida and headed north, staying just offshore before moving along South Carolina’s coast without making a major landfall.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis told Floridians on Saturday morning they must continue to prepare.
“Understand: Even if it doesn’t directly strike Florida … you’re looking at major flooding events,” DeSantis said at a news conference in Tallahassee.
Officials have warned for days about the hurricane’s potential impact in Florida, and residents have responded by stocking up on supplies and making evacuation plans.
“Even if there isn’t a center of the storm over mainland Tuesday night … the effects of the storm near landfall (are) still very dangerous,” CNN meteorologist Robert Shackelford said. “People still need to take heed to the fact that as of now, the hurricane can bring winds of 125 mph when the center reaches its highest proximity to the Florida coastline.”
President Donald Trump said he will attend a Sunday briefing at FEMA headquarters, where they will likely make decisions about whether to evacuate parts of Florida. Dorian looks like it “can be an absolute monster,” Trump said.
The flooding and storm surge will be dangerous
One of the reasons Dorian is particularly dangerous is the heavy rain that’s expected to pummel the same areas for a long time.
In the northwestern Bahamas, the storm is expected to pour up to 20 inches in isolated areas. The southeast US will be drenched in up to 18 inches of rain in some places.
The rainfall may cause life-threatening flash floods and a storm surge that will raise water levels by as much as 10 to 15 feet above normal tide levels in northwestern Bahamas, the hurricane center said.